The Hawaii Department of Education is making 18 major changes to the new teacher evaluation system that officials say will significantly reduce its burden on educators and improve teaching quality by focusing on the instructors most in need of a boost.

The controversial evaluations, which were implemented statewide this past year and will start affecting pay next school year, have been criticized by teachers and principals who said the system was so time-consuming, impractical and unfair that it was taking a toll on student learning

The changes range from cutting the frequency of key requirements in half to eliminating the student surveys for teachers who work with kids in grades kindergarten through second.

The department will simplify the system, streamline its components and vary the approach for teachers at different proficiency levels, according to DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, who signed off on the changes Thursday. The department employs 12,500 teachers. 

McKinley High School journalism teacher Cindy Reves during class. 4.11.14  ©PF Bentley/Civil Beat

McKinley High School journalism teacher Cindy Reves during class in April.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The system will now contain four components, down from five. That fifth component — comprised of the contentious student surveys — is now being incorporated into an existing metric called “Core Professionalism,” which counts for a fifth of teachers’ ratings and looks at their contributions outside the classroom.

“These changes are just the beginning to refining this system and ultimately, elevating student achievement,” Matayoshi said in a statement Thursday. The system was first piloted in schools in 2011.

The updated system is the product of a year’s worth of deliberations by an eight-member joint committee. That committee, convened by the DOE and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, includes a union representative, a teacher, a principal, a complex-area superintendent and several administrators. 

The committee shared its proposed changes with the superintendent last Friday before providing them to the Hawaii Government Employees Association Unit 6 Board of Directors for a review earlier this week.

The HGEA represents principals, who’ve also expressed dissatisfaction with the evaluation system over the past year. A recent survey showed that 94 percent of the state’s principals felt that the evaluations have damaged faculty and staff morale.

The joint committee is one of four groups formed to gather and provide feedback on the evaluation system. 

Ronn Nozoe, the DOE’s deputy superintendent, emphasized on Thursday that redesigning the evaluation system has been a difficult task.

“The parts all need to fit together,” he said. Changing the system “takes thought and time.”

The New System

In its final recommendations, the committee suggested that the effort and workload required to implement the evaluations “hurt the quality of feedback and coaching and restricted educators’ ability to carry out other responsibilities.”

The evaluation system assesses teachers on an array of rigorous metrics aimed at gauging their instructional quality and impact on student performance. Teachers have to collect data, design and implement goals and consult with administrators outside of class.

A survey conducted by the HSTA and DOE this past spring showed dissatisfaction among teachers with the new evaluations, with one out of five saying they had little to no understanding of the system and nearly two-thirds of them expressing concern over the student surveys component. Those surveys until now counted for 10 percent of teachers’ ratings. 

Now that the student surveys are no longer a stand-alone component, they will serve only to provide teachers with feedback rather than directly affect their score, Matayoshi said Thursday. 

Among the changes:

  • The number of required classroom observations will vary based on a teacher’s ranking. For example, “highly effective” teachers won’t need to do any, while “marginal,” “unsatisfactory” or beginning teachers will need two or more. The DOE says this change will reduce the observation workload by nearly 50 percent, or 9,000 fewer observations. Teachers who were rated “highly effective” this past school year can carry their rating over a year in lieu of repeating the evaluation.
  • Student surveys will be administered just once annually instead of twice. Students in grades kindergarten through second won’t need to take the surveys. The DOE says this will translate into a 63 percent reduction in surveys administered, or 11,700 fewer surveys. Moreover, the surveys will no longer count as an independent component with a stand-alone rating and will instead be incorporated into the “Core Professionalism” metric.
  • Student Learning Objectives, customized goals set by teachers for each class, will be required once annually instead of twice. The DOE is also reducing the number of steps teachers need to take as part of the goal-setting process.

Performance on each of the four components is tied to pay; for most teachers, next year’s evaluations will affect their salary for the 2015-16 year, and that will become standard going forward. For example, a teacher with several years of experience who gets a good rating for the 2014-15 school year will receive a roughly $1,000 raise the following year.

The results of the system used this past year won’t have any negative consequences for teachers, according to Matayoshi, although they will go on the records of the two new teachers on probation who received an “unsatisfactory” rating.

Teachers who earn good ratings are eligible for salary increases, while those who get poor ratings don’t get raises at all and, depending on their track records, are subject to penalties as severe as termination.

According to DOE data, about 16 percent of the state’s teachers were rated “highly effective” this past year, while 82 percent were rated “effective.” Just 2 percent of teachers were rated “marginal.”


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